The 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars haven't had any luck finding wins on American soil in the last 20 attempts, but can they reverse that overseas in London this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins?
From Tua's start at quarterback to the Dolphins' rookie pass-rushing sensation, we break down all the key storylines below.
1) Can the Jaguars slow down rookie pass-rushing sensation Jaelan Phillips?
John Shipley: I don't think so. Jaelan Phillips has 11 pressures on the season but, per PFF, nine of those have come in the last three games. This includes three quarterback hits in that span as well, with the former Miami Hurricanes star and first-round pick ramping up his pass-rushing productivity in recent weeks. He is turning speed-to-power and winning reps at a remarkable rate for a rookie pass-rusher, with the light clearly coming on. As for the Jaguars, Cam Robinson has struggled over the last two weeks and is just a week removed from allowing multiple pressures to Harold Landry. Phillips doesn't have Robinson's experience, but he has the edge here.
Gus Logue: I don't think Jaelen Phillips or any of Miami's other pass rushers pose an individual threat, as Jacksonville's offensive line has mostly held its own against a few tough opposing fronts so far this season. Darrell Bevell has done a good job of using chip help on edge rushers and Trevor Lawrence has done a better job of getting the ball out quickly.
However, the Dolphins pose a collective threat in that the team blitzes at the sixth-highest rate in the league and it's known for crowding the line of scrimmage -- especially near the A gaps -- to cause offensive line miscues. With Brandon Linder out, this will be a massive test for how well Lawrence can make adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
Kassidy Hill: A week ago, I would have said yes. The offensive line, while wanting in areas, had done a decent job of protecting Trevor Lawrence. It helped that Lawrence could move the pocket and get out in space. However, the past two weeks have taken a machete to the line. A.J. Cann and Brandon Linder are out for the foreseeable future, Ben Bartch has been solid in the run game but gives up pressure too often and Tyler Shatley, in for Linder, was limited with groin this week.
Phillips has seen his snaps consistently go up the past few weeks, so he'll likely play a majority of the game against the Jags. His first sack came last week against Tom Brady, but his best game of his season came against the Indianapolis Colts, who are perhaps the best comparison for Jacksonville. Phillips had six pressures, half a sack and four hurries. With holes along the Jags offensive line, and Phillips technique improving, he will likely be able to pick his spot. How Lawrence responds will be key.
2) Is Tua that much of a challenge for the Jaguars compared to Jacoby Brissett?
John Shipley: No. Jacoby Brissett has been bad as the Dolphins starter because he is not a starting-caliber quarterback at this stage in his career, but Tua Tagovailoa isn't exactly a game-changer at quarterback. He ranks near the bottom in every advanced metric (albeit with a small sample size) in 2021, and his physical talent isn't that of other quarterbacks the Jaguars have faced this season. For better or worse, Tua is likely the worst quarterback the Jaguars will have faced up to this point in the season, and the same would have been said for Brissett.
Gus Logue: I don't think so. Brissett is a slow processor and, well, a slow player in general, but he's a decent veteran quarterback. It may actually be better to face the second-year quarterback who's less than 100% healthy even if Tua has more explosive play potential. Neither quarterback is really much of a difference-maker though and the Jaguars should be more concerned about opposing receivers than the opposing starting quarterback.
Kassidy Hill: I don't think so. While Tua is a step-up from Brissett in theory, that's mostly because at this point you know what you're getting with Brissett and it's a beatable quarterback. Tua hasn't done a ton to inspire confidence, but it's also a smaller sample size. He's mobile enough to move the pocket and left-handed, which makes him at least a little harder to defend at first look. But Tua has yet to be a game-changer. The Jags defense should be able to get after him the same way they would Brissett.
3) Will Trevor Lawrence be the first rookie QB to win in London?
John Shipley: He has the best chance, though Zach Wilson and the Jets failing to take advantage of a terrible Falcons' defense gave them just as good of a chance. The Dolphins defense is bleeding and is without their best player, while the offense has a bad offensive line, subpar quarterback play and a nonexistent running game. The Dolphins are the worst team the Jaguars have faced so far and arguably have the worst defense to match, but I am still hesitant to put much confidence in an Urban Meyer team that has to travel overseas. I think Lawrence could get that first win on Sunday, but it is far from a safe bet.
Gus Logue: The Dolphins have played worse than expected this season, as its sole win was in Mac Jones' first career start and it's the only team with a worse point differential than the Jaguars. But while I do expect Lawrence and James Robinson to continue to play well, I'm concerned that Jacksonville's receivers will continue to struggle to create seperation against Miami's heavy man-coverage scheme, and the Jaguars ultimately won't be able to score enough points to give Lawrence his first career win.
This will be a major statement game for Jacksonville's coordinators as much as it is for Lawrence in the national spotlight. Bevell needs to plan for Miami's man coverage on defense and Cullen needs to plan for Miami's man coverage route beaters on offense.
Kassidy Hill: Lawrence has the best chance, from a talent standpoint alone. He's been noticeably improved each and every week, figuring out NFL defenses and what he can do to play around them. What's arguably held him back at times is play calling. Does the Jaguars coaching staff let Lawrence work with options in the open field? Do they keep him moving on bootlegs and RPO's and for the love of all that's holy, will they allow him to have James Robinson on his hip for those options in important situations?
4) Can the Jaguars take advantage of a bad Dolphins O-Line, or will the pass-rush fail?
John Shipley: I honestly don't think they take advantage. No matter which bad offensive lines the Jaguars have played over the last two seasons, they have failed to embarrass any of them or even put in many strong performances. Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson each had subpar games against the same bad Dolphins offensive line last year, so I don't expect that to suddenly change in a year like 2021 where the Jaguars are still struggling to win their one-on-ones. Advantage Dolphins, I think. At least until the Jaguars find a dominant primary pass-rusher.
Gus Logue: Miami's offensive line may be the worst unit that Jacksonville will see all season, but if Joe Cullen continues to be relatively unaggressive and send four rushers on the majority of snaps, the Dolphins may be able to escape this game without too much pressure allowed. Tagovailoa has been sacked four times in two games while Brissett has been sacked 12 times this season. If Jacksonville's edge rushers can't beat Miami's tackles, this defensive roster is even worse than we may have already thought.
Kassidy Hill: K'Lavon Chaisson strikes me as someone who plays better with momentum. His confidence is incredibly high after last week so if he can keep that up, it changes the entire Jaguars pass rush. Once it's not dependent solely on Josh Allen, then Joe Cullen can do so much more scheme wise. On paper, the Jaguars should have the advantage here, but it really is dependent on Chaisson playing consistently. We haven't seen that happen yet, but Sunday will tell us if his confidence can make a difference.
5) Final predictions?
John Shipley: Dolphins 17, Jaguars 13. I think this game is going to be a mess, for a lack of a better word, with each team struggling in terms of pass-protection and sustaining drives. Neither defense is exactly world-class, but ultimately these are two struggling teams who are being put into an even worse situation than they are normally in every Sunday. A low-scoring affair and another Jaguars loss is my prediction
Gus Logue: Dolphins 26, Jaguars 24. Jacksonville has the most turnovers in the league (along with another two turnovers on downs at the opponents 1 yard line) and it's missed all four of its field goal attempts (along with three extra points and two two-point conversions). It also ranks last in forced turnovers and second-to-last in sacks.
The Jaguars clearly can’t stop making mistakes on offense/special teams and can’t force any mistakes on defense. Miami is one of a few winnable games remaining on the schedule, but Jacksonville has yet to prove it can be considered a functional NFL team.
Kassidy Hill: This is another one of those games where so many aspects favor the Jaguars...but until they prove to me they know how to win a game, I won't believe they can do so. Add in the International factor, adding a layer of difficulty and adversity, and I don't trust this coaching staff to have their team ready to win this match from a game-plan point of view. The Dolphins aren't much better, so it could be a slugfest, but Brian Flores and his staff have a little more experience to get their squad ready.
Dolphins 24, Jaguars 17